Millions of people around the world will walk together during Holy week, remembering the ancient story of death and resurrection, and gathering to celebrate Jesus Christ as “the Life.” But the Lenten wandering characterized by pain and suffering will not end for millions of immigrants without legal status in this country.
Recently, conservative leaders have vocally and discreetly contested comprehensive immigration reform and criticized President Obama’s executive actions this past November as “amnesty.” The reforms would protect families from deportation separation and unlock economic opportunities for millions of undocumented immigrants.
On top of changes at the federal level, some states have removed legal barriers and obstacles that make life less burdensome for these immigrant families and allow them to participate in the American dream. Washington allows undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. California allows immigrants to practice law.
But other state legislatures, such as those in Texas, Arizona, and South Carolina have focused on driving out undocumented immigrants, adopting laws incentivizing them to leave.As we reflect on Holy Week, how can any of us affirm that “Christ is Risen Indeed” if so many of our brothers and sisters are banned from our states, forced to live in the shadows — their human dignity and value ignored? Immigration reform is a moral and ethical issue that calls on all Americans to have compassion and stand with the “least of these,” offering basic human rights to our fellow Americans, who chose to support this country and add value to it every day. Even high school students are courageously living out these values in the classroom; we need to be conscious about electing leaders who share these values.
In Alex Rivera’s “Serenata a un Indocumentado,” a woman serenades a family member held inside an immigration prison in downtown LA. She sings, “Aunque estés encarcelado, mira te canta quien te ama por ti me juego la vida, por liberarte me muero en la raya.” (Although you’re imprisoned, someone who loves you is singing, I’d risk my life for you, I’d die to liberate you).
Risking life to save another; a poignant theme for those of us who will “survey the wondrous cross.”
Jason Smith is a Congregational Engagement Specialist with the Alliance of Baptists and studied urban ministry studies at Wesley Theological Seminary in DC. He lives in Arkadelphia, AR with his wife Myra and enjoys home brewing, consuming media, and (every once in a while) making a table out of pallet wood.